Thursday, August 31, 2006

Volokh Correction #13 - legitimate scientists not the same as legitimate science

Jim Lindgren at the Volokhs gets global warming wrong - mostly. I would agree with him that global warming denialism isn't quite the same level of fraud as denying the harm from cigarettes, but I'd say that it's close to the same, and getting closer every year.

The distinction I'd make is between stating no legitimate opposing view exists regarding human-caused warming, versus stating that none of the people denying warming are legitimate scientists. Most of the "scientists" denying warming are bought-and-paid-for ideologues, like Patrick Michaels. But denialists do have a few legitimate scientists like Richard Lindzen. The legitimate category is getting smaller, older, and more waffle-y each year, but it's still there. However, just because this tiny group has done legitimate science on other climate issues doesn't mean we have to continue to give them credibility on warming, when their stubborness has long passed the point of reason. This is the main point that Lindgren misses.

What else - he thinks one of the denialists deserves a chance to speak out. Not in the context of a short television segment - that would give too much exposure to a position held by less than one percent of the scientists. On a miniseries about global warming, they can have a short piece.

Lindgren probably screwed up the "warming causes more hurricanes right now" argument since no scientists say that (UPDATE: too strong a statement on my part - see comments. Main focus though is on severity, not number). Satellites weren't missing large storms 30 years ago - I doubt a large storm has gone unreported since the 1950s, maybe earlier. He repeats canards about enviros making bad predictions in the past - presumably he believes the ozone hole and air quality are magically fixing themselves, so past predictions of disaster were just plain wrong. Then more canards about how expensive global warming will be to fix and all the benefits associated with upsetting the planet's climate (the last one is particularly ridiculous).

Finally, the annoying "science isn't consensus" argument - policy arguments that don't rely on consensus and bet the farm on outlier positions are just stupid. This isn't science we're talking about, it's what we should do about what we understand, as best we understand it.

Not Lindgren's best work.

UPDATE: Lindgren posted again, focusing mostly on minor issues. The main reason to prepare for more Category 5 storms in the future is because computer models and theory anticipate them happening, not because of the historical record.

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